WHAT TO DO WHEN A LOVED ONE DIES

 Dale O’Neal Attorney at Law, Fort Worth 

 Tel 817-877-5995

 CHAPTER 1 CHANGE OF ADDRESS WITH U.S. POST OFFICE

Immediately following the loss of a loved one, we suggest that you file a change of address form with the United States Post Office.

The new address should be the address of a most trusted close family member or friend. The more secure, the better.

The purpose of a change of address form is to make sure that mail does not fall into the wrong hands. Often times, following the loss of a loved one, no one resides at the former residence. Fill out a change of address form with the United States Post Office.

If the mail will be forwarded to you, inform your personal letter carrier that you will be receiving the mail and give your letter carrier the name of the person who has passed.     

CHAPTER TWO: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:

If the decedent receives Social Security benefits, notify the Social Security Administration of the passing of your loved one. Notify them of the death, and request that all payments cease. You may contact the Social Security Administration at 18007721213.

At the time of this writing, you must make a phone call to this number. At this time you cannot report this information online.

Please note any money received after the death of the family member, must be returned to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will actively seek return of any monies paid after the date of death.

However the Social Security Administration does pay a death benefit. Currently the death benefit is $255.00.

The death benefit is paid to the beneficiary whose name appears on the person's Social Security card.

I strongly suggest that you investigate Social Security Survivor Benefits. Family members may be eligible to receive monthly survivor benefits. Qualifying survivors include a widow or widower if 60 or older, and it may be payable as young as age 50 if the survivor is disabled. In addition, there are benefits for the decedent's unmarried minor children, sometimes adopted minor children, step-children and step grandchildren. In some cases there are benefits for divorced spouses.

Even if the decedent was not receiving Social Security, survivors may still be eligible for some benefits. Always check with the Social Security Administration and inquire about survivor benefits. When you contact the Social Security Administration inquiring about benefits, you must provide the Social Security Administration with a copy of the death certificate, the decedent's Social Security number, your Social Security number, your birth certificate, as well as additional information in selected cases. For example if the applicant is a spouse then they will need to provide a copy of the couple's marriage certificate. If the applicant is a divorced spouse then they must provide a copy of the decree of divorce. If the applicants are dependent children or step children then all Social Security numbers of the children must be provided as well as each applicant's birth certificate. If direct deposit is requested, then be prepared to furnish the routing numbers and account numbers for the appropriate bank accounts.

 CHAPTER 3: SEEK INFORMATION REGARDING LIFE INSURANCE DEATH BENEFITS.

First determine if there is any life insurance. The decedent may have left a financial portfolio indicating the names of all life insurance companies, as well as the payoff amount. If the decedent left an organized financial statement, then your job is much easier. Simply contact each life insurance company, and be prepared to give a copy of the death certificate to each life insurance company. If the decedent did not leave an organized financial portfolio, and if you must try to find the name of life insurance companies, then begin with the decedent's employer. Often employees of large corporations have life insurance as a benefit of employment.

If the decedent was not an employee, then look at the decedent's checkbook and bank statements. Often times life insurance requires monthly premiums. If the decedent made monthly premiums, you can determine the name of the life insurance company by determining the payee of each premium, or determining if there is an automatic deduction from the decedent's bank account payable to a life insurance company.

Keep a copy of each and every communication you have with a life insurance company. Make a note of the name of the person you talked to. If you communicate in writing, keep a copy of each and every letter that you write.

If the decedent was a member of the military, or a prior member of the military, then inform the Veteran's Administration of the death. The Veteran's Administration pays death benefits. Often times these benefits range from $7,000.00 to $10,000.00.

CHAPTER 4: LOCATING ASSETS       

If the decedent had a financial advisor, contact the financial advisor and inquire about any and all life insurance policies. If the decedent had a long history of employment, please contact any and all prior employers and inquire about pension benefits, retirement benefits, and death benefits. Keep detailed notes of any and all conversations. If the decedent was a current or past federal government employee, then survivors may be eligible for benefits. Contact the Office of Personnel Management at 18887676738. The next major job will be to locate the decedent's assets and to organize an inventory of those assets.

The best way to locate assets is to look through the decedent's personal papers and files. Locate deeds, titles to vehicles and trailers and boats, bank statements, stock ownership, investment and bonds, mutual funds, annuities and other investments. This investigation can get rather complicated. Simply be relaxed, be methodical, and buy some organizational tools from your local office supply store.

Inventory the decedent's safety deposit box. If you have a key to the safety deposit box and a copy of the death certificate, usually the financial institution will at least let you look inside. They may not allow you to remove anything without a court order or some sort of written communication on a lawyer's letterhead.

Review the decedent's income tax returns. Often the income tax returns give you a paper trail of investments and assets. Any and all income from investments is usually reported on the income tax returns. Therefore if the decedent owns stock that paid dividends, then the dividends would be reflected on the income tax returns. If the decedent had bank accounts that paid interest, then those interest payments will be reflected on the income tax return, as well as the name of the financial institution, the account number etc. Obtain a copy of the last 3 to 4 years income tax returns of the decedent. If you can only find one return, then look at the name of the prepared of that return. The decedent may have used the same income tax preparation service for several years. If the decedent used a paid professional income tax return preparer, then that preparer would probably keep copies of prior years' returns.

Look at the computer of the decedent.  Often times people prepare personal inventories on their computers.  Look at the email and correspondence on the computer.  Search for financial institutions.

Look for quarterly statements from financial institutions.  If you have filled out a change of address form, then these quarterly statements will come to you at your new address.  And of course at the end of each tax year, there will be tax documents generated by financial institutions. 

Review the financial records of the deceased. Try to locate each and every bank account, including the specific account numbers and the name of the bank or financial institution. This includes credit unions, savings accounts, etc.

Review the checkbook of the decedent. Look at the expenses paid typically each month by the decedent. Cancel any non-necessary recurring expenses. This can include magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions, satellite television, internet, landline telephones, etc.

CHAPTER 5: CERTIFICATES OF DEATH

Always obtain multiple copies of the certificate of death. You wilI need multiple copies of the certificate of death. This important legal document will be required by banks, financial institutions, life insurance companies, the Social Security Administration, et cetera.

Usually we can help you you obtain certificates of death.

 It is much easier to get the copies at the time of the arrangements than it is to obtain additional copies later.

 CHAPTER 6: DEBTS

Find out all the information that you can about the decedent's debts. Understand that the passing of the decedent does not eliminate the debt of the decedent. Of course you probably have no personal obligation to pay the debts of the decedent. Usually the obligation to pay the debts of the decedent is limited to the assets of the estate the decedent.

If you're the surviving spouse of the decedent, then you may have personal liability to pay the debts of the decedent.

Of course the estate must pay all debts owed to the IRS, state taxes, Medicare, Social Security Administration for overpayment, et cetera.

 It is wise to continue payments on any and all mortgages and motor vehicle loans. If these payments are not timely made, then the lending institution may begin foreclosure.

Following probate of the estate, the heirs of the estate usually are required to make payments on debts associated with any property they receive.  For example, if an heir receives an automobile that has a monthly payment on it, then that heir would be required to make future payments on the automobile, after the estate has been probated and after the heir has received that asset.

If there is a home or automobiles, then please make sure that the insurance stays in full force and effect on these assets.

If there are significant credit cards, then make a list of the credit cards, the account numbers, et cetera. Most credit card companies do not seek repayment from an estate, unless the estate is significant. Credit card companies do have the ability to review the inventory of an estate that is pending in probate court.

Some credit cards have built in life insurance. The purpose is to pay off that debt upon the death of the credit card holder. If you're contacted by a credit card company, be sure to inquire about any death benefits of the card.

If there was a home, then continue to pay the regularly recurring bills. These would include the mortgage, utility, telephone, cable etc, as long as someone is residing in the home.

If no one is residing in the home, we suggest you continue to keep the electricity and water turned on. Oftentimes, homeowners insurance will terminate if there is no electricity or water provided to the home. This is for safety reasons.

Some insurance policies are void if the home is unoccupied. Contact the agent of the deceased to determine if this particular policy requires occupancy of the deceased home.

If the bank freezes the funds of the decedent, then you may be forced to notify creditors that the bills will be paid once the estate has been probated and the accounts are available.

If there is a surviving spouse, that person must pay the decedent's outstanding debts as they come due. This is assuming that all debts are valid and legally collectible.

 

THE FIRST CHECKLIST IS "WHO TO NOTIFY."

Here is a list of who to notify of the loss:

  1.  The deceased's employer
  1.  Retirement plans
  1.  Social Security Administration

                        1-800-772-1213

  1.  U.S. Post Office

                        Change of address form

  1.  Credit reporting agencies
  1.  Medicare – Medicaid
  1.  All creditors
  1.  Financial advisors
  1.  Voters registration
  1.  Former employers – Inquire about death benefits and retirement benefits
  1.  Veteran's Administration
  1.  The decedent's C.P.A.
  1.  Life insurance
  1.  Disability insurance carrier
  1.  Probate estate attorney Dale O’Neal, Fort Worth Tarrant County 817-877-5995

 DOCUMENTS TO LOCATE

  1.  Last Will and Testament
  1.  Marriage certificate
  1.  Birth certificate
  1.  Life insurance policies
  1.  5 years of income tax returns
  1.  Military discharge papers
  1.  Deeds
  1.  Bank statements
  1.  Financial records
  1.  Life insurance policies
  1.  Automobile titles
  1.  Deeds and mortgages
  1.  Stock certificates
  1.  Bank passbooks
  1.  Retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401ks, and pensions
  1.  Credit card statements
  1.  Powers of attorney

 

USEFUL CONTACTS IN FORT WORTH TARRANT COUNTY

ATTORNEY ESTATE / PROBATE: DALE O'NEAL 817-877-5995

HANDYMAN: BRETT JEFFREYS 817-560-4070

HANDYMAN: RONNIE RANDLE 817-923-6100

PLUMBER: CHARLIE'S PLUMBING 817-465-6902

ELECTRICIAN: BLESSED ELECTRIC 214-801-5755

APPLIANCE REPAIR: GUINCO 817-835-1110

CHAPTER 7: MISCELLANEOUS

If applicable, notify the deceased's landlord, rental agency, or administration office (for Assisted Living or Nursing Home) as soon as possible, to discuss lease or rental agreements, and important moving out dates if necessary. Request refunds of security deposits. 

Insurance Companies:  Contact all. the insurance companies on the list you made from the deceased's records. This includes policies that might pay death benefits to the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in the policy (such as life insurance or annuities). Contact an insurance company if you see its policy might pay for account balances (such as for mortgages, credit cards or other loans). 

Employee Pensions and Benefits:  If you are listed as the employee's beneficiary, contact the deceased's employer and ask about any possible death benefits, retirement annuity or pension plans, and life and health insurance coverage. Unions and other professional organizations may provide benefits also. Note: Sometimes you must return the deceased's final monthly pension payment to the pension company before they send a new, adjusted payment. If the deceased was employed, notify the employer.

Veterans Affairs:  If the deceased was a veteran, notify the VA to ask about possible death and burial benefits, and also for survivor's benefits. For information about Veteran's survivors' benefits, see the "Veterans' Benefits" section in the Financial Benefit Programs chapter in the Handbook for Washington Seniors: Legal Rights and Resources.

Banks, Financial Institutions, and Credit Card Companies:  If you were a CO-Signer or had a joint account with the deceased, you must notify the bank or other financial institutions (including credit card companies) of the death. For joint accounts "with the right of survivorship" the survivor owns all of the money in the account, but you still must notify the bank of the death.

Credit Bureaus:  Send a copy of the deceased's Death Certificate to each of these three credit bureaus, to help avoid identity theft:  1. Equifax By phone:  1-888-766-0008 (toll-free) By mail:  PO Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348 Online www.equifax.com 2. Experian By phone:  1-888-397-3742 By mail:  PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013 Online:  www.experian.com 3. TransUnion By phone:  1-800-680-7289 By mail:  PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022 Online:  www.transunion.com

 

CHAPTER 8: THE FAMILY

If your family has tension or is divided, then please encourage all family members to put aside their anger during this process.

Include all family members in the ceremonies, decisions, and grief process.

Focus on the positive aspects of the lives of the family rather than on the negatives.

Use this time to heal old wounds and to renew family friendships.

Try to avoid saying anything negative about any family member, including the deceased.

Consider counseling to repair relationships.We offer grief counseling. Contact us for additional information.

CHAPTER 9: THE ESTATE

No funds or property should be distributed unless approved by the probate court. 

However, certain designated beneficiaries may receive benefits without court approval.  Examples include life insurance benefits. 

Secure all assets of the decedent.  Photograph personal property.  Have witnesses as you inventory assets. Give lists of assets to all heirs.

Determine the identity of the executor. The executor is usually named in the Last Will and Testament of the deceased.

If there was no Last Will and Testament, the heirs should discuss who “will be in charge.”

Transparency and communication avoid problems and minimize professional costs.

Never make a false representation about any assets.

CHAPTER 10: PROTECT AGAINST FINANCIAL FRAUD

  • Be careful with social media. It's tempting to go on Facebook or other social networking sites to post tributes, create online memorials and offer personal reflections about a loved one who has died. But experts caution against it. 'The more information people give away about their deceased relatives, the more information that identity thieves will be getting," warns fraud specialist “Identity Theft 911”. Also, don't notify people of someone's death via a social networking site. If you absolutely must use these networks to communicate a death notice, send a direct message that the person has died and then shut down the account, just like you would financial accounts.
  • Don't toss; shred. If you're cleaning out a loved one's home after their death, be mindful of dumpster divers and others who steal mail. Shred important documents instead of putting them in the trash, Sileo recommends.
  • Limit personal access to sensitive data. Lastly, avoid the mistake of letting copies of the death certificate or personal records lay around unprotected, even in boxes. Take extra care to secure the financial documents of those who had been living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Remember, when you're dealing with a chronically-ill person or someone in a nursing home who has died, and the person was often sedated or sleeping, health care workers often have opportunity to rifle through the person's mail and files.  Unfortunately, that can lead to tragic financial events.

 YOU CAN SEE YOUR LOVED ONE AGAIN

We believe that once a person leaves this earth that they will have the opportunity to spend eternity with God and with family, friends and loved ones. 

But we believe the only way to spend eternity with God is to believe that Jesus is the son of God who gave his life as a ransom for man's sins, died on the cross, and arose from the grave.

If you would like to spend eternity with God and your loved ones, then say this prayer:

SALVATION PRAYER

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus.  I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul.  With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.  This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved. 

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins.   I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance.  Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.  AMEN.